What is Silent Solutions?

A national campaign to raise awareness of a system to help people alert police when in imminent danger but unable to speak, is being launched by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and is supported by Gloucestershire’s Officer of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Silent Solution system enables a 999 mobile caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted – to inform police they are in a genuine emergency.

The system is well-established in the UK but is only effective if the public know and understand how it works. It could, in extreme situations, potentially save a life.

Silent Solutions graphic

‘Make Yourself Heard’

The IOPC-led ‘Make Yourself Heard’ campaign has been launched support from the family of murder victim Kerry Power, Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Prior to her murder, Kerry believed that if she made a silent 999 call she would not need to speak or make a noise for police to send assistance. Sadly her call was terminated and was not put through to the police control room because she did not know to use the Silent Solution system.

It is not true that police will automatically attend if you make a silent 999 call. Callers need to listen and respond to questions and instructions, including by coughing or tapping the handset if possible, or if using a mobile phone, once prompted by the automated Silent Solution system, pressing 55.

How does it work?

The system filters out thousands of accidental or hoax silent 999 calls made daily. Around 50 emergency calls from mobiles a day are transferred by a BT operator to police forces in the UK as a result of someone having pressed 55 when prompted, enabling the police to carry out urgent enquiries to respond.

IOPC Regional Director Catrin Evans said: “It is always best to actually speak to a police call handler if you can, even if by whispering, but if you are putting yourself or someone else in danger by making a sound, there is something you can do.

“Make yourself heard by coughing, tapping the handset or once prompted by the automated system, by pressing 55.

“We found from our investigation into police contact with Kerry that there is a lack of public awareness of the Silent Solution system and are keen to share this important information as widely as possible. It could potentially save a life.”

  • Around 20,000 silent 999 calls (where no response is obtained to questions) are made a day. Of those, around 5,000 are transferred to the Silent Solution system because doubt whether the call is genuine exists.
    The 55 instruction is detected around 50 times a day (1 per cent of all silent calls put through to the system).
  • Silent Solutions ‘How to Guide’ can be found here
  • A Silent Solutions poster can be found here.
  • Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. The 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge) and ­our range of online services, which include the Survivors’ Forum, help hundreds of thousands of women and children every year.
  • The Next Generation Text service, run by BT, is designed for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment. You need to register your mobile number before using the service. Visit the NGT website for information – https://www.ngts.org.uk/how-to-use-ngt/contact-999-using-ngt.html